WASHINGTON — A Houston-based plastics company has agreed to pay $59,000 penalty as part of a settlement agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over alleged Clean Air Act and emergency preparedness violations at five facilities.
Protective packaging specialist Inhance Technologies LLC, formerly known as Fluoro-Seal International LP, also agreed to spend at least $180,000 on new systems in Illinois, Iowa and Missouri to safeguard against hazardous hydrogen fluoride gas release under the EPA agreement.
“This voluntary resolution puts Inhance Technologies on an enforceable path toward complying with vital public-health and worker-protection laws,” said EPA Regional Administrator Karl Brooks in a news release. “Firms that store and handle substantial quantities of these hazardous chemicals need to work with EPA and first responders to help make sure their everyday manufacturing processes safeguard both their own employees and the communities where they do business.”
The settlement comes out of an EPA compliance inspection of the company's Mount Pleasant, Iowa, facility in November 2010. According to the agency, Inhance did not follow rules for using or storing the potentially toxic gas anhydrous hydrogen fluoride beyond specified threshold amounts. Federal officials say the company's other facilities in Centerville, Iowa, and Kansas City and St. Louis, Mo., also failed to follow proper risk management protocol for storing such chemicals, though the agency also notes Inhance maintains stores of anhydrous hydrogen fluoride below the government's threshold.
In addition to the EPA citations, federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) inspections of Inhance's St. Louis, Mount Pleasant, and Centerville facilities also identified worker safety violations, according to the government.
Inhance President and CEO Andrew Thompson said the nearly 5-year-old complaint against the company was more a matter of paperwork and reporting issues than pollution or endangering workers, and the agreement will largely force the company to spend money adding hardware to already-compliant facilities.
“We did not admit or really deny any wrongdoing,” Thompson said Jan. 7 by phone. “We merely settled what is, at this point, a 5-year long issue.”